Changing Directions

When I was 22 I discovered the magic of having a four-week vacation.

I’d been living in Berne, Switzerland since I was 18. I had a wonderful studio with one huge panoramic window with a view of the Alps. It was breathtaking — and it my view every day!

Know When Its Time Change

I worked relatively short hours at the Embassy of Malaysia, took university classes at night and had a very active social life with lots of friends. I could have easily continued that life.

But I had four weeks of vacation and decided to go to Paris on a study vacation to brush up on my French. I stayed with a family to cut down on costs. It was great! I learned lots, made new friends, saw lots of Paris and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I had no idea that vacation would teach me the importance of reevaluating one’s life every so often.

The Hidden Benefit of Long Vacations

My most treasured experience from Paris didn’t actually happen in Paris. It happened when I returned to my apartment in Berne.

I’d been away for four full weeks in an environment where everything was different. When I came back, the reality of my life was very clear to me — I saw the things I hadn’t really chosen and those that had become outdated.

That new perspective was powerful. I was able to re-evaluate my life and change what needed to be changed.

Over the next 15 years or so, I took three more long vacations: eight weeks in Ottawa, Canada; 16 weeks and then 12 weeks island-hopping in the Bahamas.

I took my daughters with me on these long vacations, so they were real adventures! Those journeys not only gave me perspective, they helped forge the young women my daughters have become.

Of course, I could only take these long breaks when I was between jobs, but I made them happen because they gave me the distance I needed to assess the life I was leading and see if I was truly on track.

My willingness to evaluate my current choices and make changes as needed has had an important impact on how I’ve taken control of my life.

The Exhilaration of Overcoming Fear

In 2007 I knew I wanted to market my new business online. It’s hard to imagine now, but back then being online was a jump into the unknown. Everyone was wary of putting themselves — their real selves — out there. I was caught up in this too.

I was afraid of putting my name out there. I was afraid of what my online identity would do to my reputation. I was a single mom with two beautiful daughters at home and didn’t want this to change the security of what I’d built at home.

It took me ages to reply as myself in online forums or buy anything online with my credit card. And yet, even though this whole online business thing was fairly new, I wanted to be part of it.

Eventually the temptation to do something fun was stronger than the fear. I steeled myself and jumped in. I still remember how momentous it was to be myself online, to put my name and my picture out there.

I started this blog in 2007 and blogged daily for about three and a half years. At the same time I was also publishing daily content my other site Get International Clients. That’s a lot of blogging! But it was both fun and worthwhile.

Working on two different but compatible blogs allowed me to do more with the online visibility of my business. It also allowed me to learn about business blogging, how to use social media effectively and online marketing.

These new areas of expertise altered my path and I would not have arrived here without deciding to get over that initial fear.

The Importance of Seizing Opportunities

With perspective and experience comes the ability to recognize opportunities when you see them.

In 2009 I joined another blogging adventure with a new company called Social Media Examiner. It was one of the best places at the time to learn how businesses can use social media successfully, something I had become passionate about.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be a key player in growing Social Media Examiner to be one of the leading website in this industry.

The price of seizing the opportunity — and growing with it — was that I didn’t have time to write on my personal blog. Three years ago I stopped altogether and focused on my day job at Social Media Examiner. And this decision has grown my knowledge and professional expertise that is so valuable to me today.

But even as Social Media Examiner grew I wanted something to play with that was my own. Having led such a rich, international life I enjoy sharing experiences with like-minded people. I launched the International Stories podcast last year and I had plans to get back to my own personal blogging.

A Renewed Perspective from Facing a Life Challenge

Unfortunately, after publishing only seven podcast episodes I had another life changing event. I found out that I had breast cancer.

This time it was my health that forced me to stop and re-evaluate my life and make the changes I needed — and those changes were radical.

I dropped everything I was doing. I put my podcast on hold and let my personal blogging go once again. I focused all of my time on healing and what I needed to do to get better.

My last chemo session was in December 2013 and results were excellent. It takes time before the side effects of chemo are completely gone, but I’m slowly getting back into a more social lifestyle once again.

A New Direction for This Blog

The last year has had some fearful moments and it was certainly a challenge. But it was also another opportunity — a time to re-evaluate my life, what I do and how I spend my time.

I’m ready to make new changes.

One of the next things I want to do is start blogging here again. Although this blog will most likely change direction, my international experience and multi-cultural background are still a big part of who I am. I see things differently than people who haven’t travelled or worked in international environments, and that view will continue to influence what I write about here.

I’m interested in re-launching the International Stories podcast as soon as I feel I can commit to that routine. And also have another fun online project in the works. I love the new social media space and how we can all connect in ways we couldn’t before.  (I’m still working on a few health routines that are a higher priority.)

As you can see, I’m in the process of re-evaluating life once again and looking forward to the new direction it takes me.

Have you ever needed or wanted to revaluate your life, or gone through changing directions? How did you do it? What was the trigger?

7 Networking Tips For International Business Students

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The goal for this blog is to inspire professionals to get more international business. But a number of international business students also read the articles here.  Yesterday I received this message on Facebook:

I’m a recent university graduate with a major in marketing I came across ur blog and found it very interesting. I have not found a job yet but my main focus is international marketing maybe in research. I really enjoy studying other cultures. Any advice on where to look for job openings or what my next step should be?

It’s obviously the season for graduates looking for work.
Continue reading

9 Tips To Learn More About Your International Markets Over The Phone

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When it comes to market research for international audiences, it’s tempting to outsource everything if you can afford it. And today many people today try to do their international market research online. But when you do lots of online research you can get complacent.

No matter what your business is, there comes a time when you must have direct contact with the people. People in your international markets.  You can pick up lots of useful information when you communicate with others in person. And this information can prove to be vital when it comes to people who live in a different country, have a different lifestyle and a different way of thinking. Unfortunately I meet a number of people who seem to avoid picking up the phone.

Here are the most useful tips I have found when connecting with people in your international markets by phone. Continue reading

How Collaboration Impacts User Experience

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Yesterday I wrote about my recent culture shocks when comparing the American way of live to what I’m used to in Europe and how this can provide some insights for international marketers.  What surprised me was that they are all from a “green” perspective.

There is one other area where cultural differences explain something that had puzzled me previously.

But let me back up first…

A Bit Of Smart Card History

One of my first jobs in Europe was to do international market research in the banking sector.  At the time France had “smart cards” and the United States didn’t.  But what the American banking professionals were really fascinated by at the time was how all of the French banks worked together to provide the best user experience. Continue reading

Cultural Differences In Lifestyles: Shades Of Green

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here and I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to besides spending time over at Social Media Examiner.

Over the last year I’ve been bouncing back and forth between my home in France and the United States.  Although I grew up in the Bahamas with American radio and television and traveled there quite a bit when I was younger, this is the first time I’ve really experienced the American lifestyle for over 20 years.

And several things stuck out since I’ve become accustomed to the European way of life.  What’s funny is that most of the cultural differences I first noticed are related to being “green”.  Here they are. Continue reading

3 Top Excuses For Not Developing An International Business

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One of the reasons why I started this blog 3 years ago was because I hear too many objections from businesses about why they’re not going international.

I live in an area outside of Paris where there are a lot of small and mid-sized businesses. And almost every time I leave my house I run into a successful business owner or local business man.  After the usual greetings, and given my international business background, this person almost always tells me they want to develop their business internationally…

But they always add an excuse.  And I don’t find most of the excuses I hear to be valid reasons to stop you from developing your business internationally if that’s what you want to do.

Here are the three excuses and objections I hear the most often. Continue reading